Lava is still tearing through Hawaii as the Kilauea volcano continues to erupt— here’s what it looks like on the ground

Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano is still gushing lava and ash, weeks after violent eruptions began.

The volcano has technically been erupting since 1983, but this recent spate of dangerous eruptions has been escalating since May 3. The lava flows have severely damaged nearby residential neighborhoods and forced over 2,000 people to evacuate their homes. Many still can’t access their properties as ash and lava continue to spread around the island.

Beyond the immediate fire danger from lava, high levels of sulfur dioxide spewing from the volcano pose a serious threat to children, elderly people, and people with respiratory issues, the United States Geological Survey said.

The ongoing eruptions have severely impacted Hawaii’s tourism-driven economy and are transforming large swaths of the Big Island’s normally lush landscape. Here’s what it looks like on the ground:


Kilauea has been continuously erupting for more than a month, spewing ash and lava on Hawaii’s Big Island.


Lava has destroyed at least 600 homes and properties near the volcano, according to ABC News.

Source: ABC


Over 2,000 people have been evacuated since the eruptions began, and many are still not able to return to their homes.

Source: CNN


More than 20 active fissures have broken open, oozing lava all over the island and into the Pacific Ocean.


The flows release toxic gases like sulfur dioxide, which can pose respiratory problems, especially for children and the elderly.


Lava flows can quickly overtake and scorch anything in their path. They have covered vast swaths of land on the Big Island.


Take, for example, Kapoho Bay, which is close to Kapoho Crater, an active crater on the Kilauea volcano. This is a satellite image of the bay on June 3, as lava approached.

source
Satellite image ©2018 DigitalGlobe, a Maxar company

By June 5, the lava advanced dramatically, as seen in the below photo.

source
Satellite image ©2018 DigitalGlobe, a Maxar company

On June 8, Kapoho Bay was almost completely filled in. In this more zoomed-out photo of the area, the bay looks black next to the bright orange lava.

caption
Plumes of laze rise from Kapoho Bay.
source
Pierre Markuse/Flickr from Copernicus Sentinel/European Space Agency

When lava enters the ocean, it creates new hazards for marine life and local residents.

caption
People take photos on a tour boat as steam plumes rise while lava from the Kilauea volcano enters the Pacific Ocean, May 20, 2018.
source
Mario Tama/Getty Images

Dangerous plumes of laze — a combination of the words lava and haze — rise when lava comes into contact with ocean water. This is not ordinary smoke.


Faced with the volcanic heat, sea water gets boiled. That creates a mix of hydrochloric acid, steam, and tiny glass particles, which can cause respiratory issues if inhaled.

Source: Business Insider


USGS geologist Janet Babb told Reuters that laze plumes from the Kilauea eruption could extend as far as 15 miles.

Source: Reuters.


In some areas of the Big Island, lava is piled up over 40 feet high.

Source: USA Today


The eruption has had disastrous consequences for Hawaii’s tourism-driven economy. Bookings for hotels on the Big Island have dropped around 50% since the eruptions started on May 3, according to Reuters.

Source: Reuters


“My house was an offering for Pele,” Monica Devlin, a local resident whose home was destroyed by the flows, told The New York Times. “It’s an awe-inspiring process of destruction and creation and I was lucky to glimpse it.” Pele is a native Hawaiian deity that many believe is responsible for volcanic eruptions.

caption
Steam plumes rise as lava enters the Pacific Ocean, after flowing to the water from a Kilauea volcano fissure on Hawaii’s Big Island on May 21, 2018.
source
Mario Tama/Getty Images

Source: New York Times